(This article is a continuation of the article on the Delfin, Koni I frigate (Click for review of the Combrig Delfin) The majority of the article is identical to the prior review. New information on Project 1159T or Koni II is in italics.)
In the late 1800s the Royal Navy reigned supreme. The naval construction infrastructure was far more advanced and far larger than every other country. In addition to building warships for the Royal Navy, British shipyards built ships for other countries throughout the world. Armstrong developed a protected cruiser design that was one of the leading export cruisers of the age. This was the famous Elswick cruiser, variations of which were purchased by many different countries, including the United States and Japan. With the dawn of the 20th century other countries had developed their naval construction industry to such a degree, that they too joined the warship export market peddling their designs that didnít have the capacity to build modern warships or to countries that had already utilized all of their native industry in warship construction but wanted to increase their fleet even further, such as Imperial Russia.
This arms emporium reached its zenith on the eve of World War One. The US built battleships for Argentina and sold two predreadnoughts to Greece, Britain built battleships for Brazil, and was building battleships for Chile and Turkey as well as a battlecruiser for Japan, and Germany was building a battlecruiser for Greece. All of this came to an end in August 1914 when the combatant countries needed all of the warships that they could get. There were a few export warships built between the two world wars but nothing near the tempo that existed prior to the First World War, primarily because of the terrible financial condition of most countries as a result of the world wide depression as well as effects of the Washington and London Treaties on naval arms control.
A nation could benefit by having their private naval yards build designs for other navies. Not only did it create jobs but also the jobs created were specialized ones that would increase the trained labor force that could be used for their own navies. The naval construction industry stayed large and viable without large subsidies from their home country. New ideas and experiments could be first tried out on designs for foreign buyers without the home navy rolling the dice on an experimental systems or theories. After World War Two and the start of the Cold War the Soviet Union and United States started furnishing their respective allies with warships but these generally can from transfers of old construction with the funds received allowing for the purchase of new construction. However by the 1970s both countries had started to build warships for export again. One example of a US design built for export was the Kidd Class destroyers, which were being built for Iran, before the fall of the Shah ended this contract and the USN bought the four destroyers of the contract. The Soviet Union also built warships specifically for export.
Project 1159 was one such export warship. In 1977 a new frigate was spotted in the Black Sea and at first was thought to be replacements for the Riga Class frigates built in the 1950s. The new design was given the NATO codename Koni Class. The educated guess was wrong, the design was for export to client states of the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union the frigate was called the Delfin and the design went into series production. The Soviet navy kept copies in the Black Sea for use in training crews of the foreign purchasers. The Delfin was laid down in April 1973 at the Krasney Metalist yard in Zelenodolsk on the Black Sea as hull #201. The ships were called Storojeve Korabli (SKR) or Escort or Guard Ships but were analogous to small frigates. Throughout the production cycle of the different series of Project 1159, the Delfin remained in the Black Sea training foreign crews. In total 14 of these ships were constructed in four variants. Six of this number were the basic model 1159, code name Koni I. Variants of the design were purchased by Algeria, Cuba, East Germany (DDR), Libya and Yugoslavia. The first four warships were of the same design. Delphin, Nerpa hull #202, laid down on October 2, 1974 and sold to East Germany (DDR). With East Germany she was renamed Rostock. The third ship was Kreshet hull #203, laid down on May 7, 1975 at likewise sold to East Germany, to be renamed Berlin. The fourth hull was named Sokol, hull #204, and was laid down July 14, 1976. This ships was sold to Yugoslavia and became the Split (VRB-31) after the port on the Adriatic. The Krasney Metalist Yard basically built one of the class per year and a foreign buyer was found, or more likely, the buyer was found first. The crew was brought to the Black Sea and trained on the Delfin.
With the fifth ship a variant appeared and the first ships were renamed with the Koni I NATO codename. The difference came with the buyer. The Koni I ships were designed for navies of Europe, Russia, East Germany and Yugoslavia, the Koni II was designed for warm water navies. Operations in a warm environment, changed the appearance of the ship to a certain extent. However, two more of the basic 1159 Koni I ships, were purchased after the advent of the Koni II. Yugoslavia purchased an additional Project 1159, which was commissioned in 1982 as the Korag. No name was assigned to her by the Russians. Under construction she was known as hull #205 or SKR-481. The sixth basic 1159 model was a third copy purchased by East Germany. Built between 1984 to 1986, she was hull #206 and called SKR-149, until commissioned as the Halle. The initials SKR stood for the Russian ship type Storojevoi Korable. Production for the last of the ships ended in 1988 and the Delfin was kept for a while just in case there were more buyers for the design. None were forthcoming so in 1990 the Delfin was sold to Bulgaria and was renamed the Smelyy.
The Koni I had found buyers with East Germany and Yugoslavia but these ships would operate in the Baltic and Adriatic. Two new purchasers of the design came forward and each of them had the same problem. They needed a design that would be effective in a warm environment. Algeria was the first. Operating on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, just north of the Sahara Desert, special fittings, specifically air conditioning was thought desirable. The other country was the Cuban navy, which operated in the hot and humid tropical environment of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. In so many words, Krasney Metalist said have it your way and designed a variant that would be fitted with air conditioning for operations in a warm environment. To house the required equipment a new deckhouse was fitted between the large forward superstructure and small aft superstructure of the original Project 1159 design. Actually rather than a deckhouse, it would probably be more accurate to say that the gap between the two superstructures was filled with new housing. Now the ship ha a new profile. Instead of having two separate superstructures separated by a noticeable gap, the new design, called Project 1159T, had one long continuous superstructure running 60% of the length of the ship. Another subsequent addition was two sets of twin 533mm torpedo tubes, one on either side of the new deckhouse. However, not all of the new type was fitted with the tubes. From the box photograph of Reis Korfo, it is clear that she had the tubes but photographs of other Project 1159T ships show that no tubes are present. The new variant was given the NATO codename Koni II.
The fifth hull was to this new 1159T design. The Krasney Metalist hull number jumped sequence to indicate the new design. The first four 1159 ships were hull numbers 201 (Delfin) to 204. The fifth hull was numbered 250. Built between 1979 to 1981 the ship was simply known as SKR-482 by the Soviets and was the first of the class to be not given a Russian name at the start. This ship was commissioned as the Mourad Rais in the Algerian Navy. The sixth hull was another 1159T tropical Koni and was built for Cuba. Hull 251, called SKR-28, was built between 1979 and 1982 and was commissioned into the Cuban navy as Mariel, Number 350. Almost immediately the yard picked up an order for a second Algerian 1159T. Hull number 252, SKR-35, was built between 1980 to 1982nand was commissioned as the Rais Kellich. Cuba added her second 1159T in 1981. Hull number 253, SKR-471, was constructed between 1981 to 1984 and was commissioned as Number 356. A third 1159T (Koni II) was added by Algeria. Built between 1982 and 1985 as hull 254, SKR-129, was commissioned as the Reis Korfo. In 1986 Cuba had operated her two 1159T frigates for four years and like Algeria, thought well enough of the class to add her third frigate in an order. This ship, hull 255, SKR-201, was built between 1986 to 1988 and was commissioned as the Monkada Number 353. This third Cuban frigate was the sixth and last of the Project 1159T, or Koni II, class frigate to be constructed by Krasney Metalist, and also happened to be the last of the total of 14 ships of the class to be order. The next variant of the Koni would come from another source.
The warships had the following dimensions 311 feet (95m) by 42 feet (12.8m) by 13.7 feet (4.2m) and displaced 1,700 tons standard and 1,900 tons full load. Armament for the initial 1159 design was four 76mm (3-Inch) AK-726 guns mounted in fore and aft twin turrets, two SA-N-4 SAM (Zif-122) with a 20 missile storage capacity, two 30mm AK-230 30mm gun systems, and two 12-barreled RBU 6000 ASW rocket mounts forward and depth charge racks aft. The design was also equipped with mine racks with storage for 20 mines. The Project 1159T (Koni II) added two twin 533 torpedo mounts. The design was equipped with three shafts. For economical cruising there were the two outer shafts turned by diesel engines of 12,000 shp combined and to put on speed for combat a centerline gas turbine at 18,000 shp. Top speed was 22 knots on diesel alone and 27 knots with the gas turbine running.
The Combrig Delfin
The smaller fittings are standard for Combrig. All are well cast and range in quality from good to excellent. The stack, tower mast and gun mounts are well done but the 76.2mm gun barrels are somewhat thick. The bridge level is nice with deeply incised windows. They are of such depth that you can use Micro-Klear to provide glass for these windows. Some of the nicest parts are some of the smallest. The AK-230 30mm CIWS, capstans, RBU-6000 ASW rocket mounts, cable reels, capstans and the life canisters are very nice. Since they are resin parts, the sensor arrays are solid. Gold Medal Models is about to release their new Soviet/Russian moderns warships fret in 1:700 scale. Although I have not seen it yet, this fret will undoubtedly be an excellent addition for the Delphin as well as Combrigís entire lineup of modern Soviet/Russian warships.
The Combrig Project 1159T Reis Korfo adds three additional parts to those found in the Combrig Delfin. Otherwise it is the same model. The additional parts are the new deck house and two 533mm torpedo mounts. The new deck house piece simply fits between the forward and aft superstructures on the original hull casting. From a manufacturing stand point it is simple and logical for Combrig to just add a single piece for the deck house rather than redesign the hull casting to include the additional feature. The only thing that it means to the modeler is that there small seams to be filled where the new piece abuts the hull casting. Additionally with the original change of design the life raft canisters had to be relocated. With the 1159 (Koni I) these were place on the rear bulkhead of the forward superstructure but with the 1159T (Koni II) there was no longer any forward superstructure,. The life raft canisters were now placed on either side and at the top of the new deckhouse, overhanging the deck below. If you look at the photograph of the Reis Korfo on the box cover, you will notice that there are supports coming up from the main deck to the canister fittings. Youíll have to add these supports with wire or rod. However, in the Project 1159T ships that were not fitted with torpedo tubes, the life raft canisters were located along the base of the new deckhouse, rather than at the top.
Now with the Combrig Reis Korfo, Project 1159T, Code name Koni II, two new navies can make their appearance. You can have your own Algerian frigates patrolling the shores of the old Barbary pirates or have one of Fidelís finest patrolling against cigar smugglers. Either way, the Combrig Reis Korfu with her long superstructure does present a significantly different profile from the original Project 1159 Delfin.